“We don’t need a social media marketing strategy, we need a brand strategy of which social media is an integral part” – Sarah Stall, University of Puget Sound
Digital marketing strategies vary greatly depending on the industry. Those in higher education are often caught in the crosshairs of upholding history and tradition and moving forward into the future with students. This makes it vital that their social media marketing efforts comprise part of a larger strategy focused on the overall institutional brand.
As social networks continue to advance and meld into aspects of everyday life, the academic world is determining the way in which these digital tools can work to educational advantage in correlation with conventional methods. The intended core of social media is communication, providing great opportunities for those within the education industry to connect, share and learn.
Dr. James Michael Nolan, President of Southwestern College, describes his experience with the changing digital landscape: “over the past two to three years, social media has become a primary tool and strategy for recruitment, for marketing, for development, for public relations, for alumni relations and for moving our unique school toward a ‘thought leadership’ position.”
Although there are many online schools, we are focused on the social and academic integration those traditional institutions face after years of heavy textbooks and chalkboards. Below we outline three of the main benefits social media provides for them:
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- Recruitment. Social networks allow schools to reach potential students in their “natural habitat.” In fact, about two-thirds of high school students report that they prefer using social media when researching colleges and enrollment. Facebook is the top network in which to contact these students. The generation that grew up in the digital age largely trusts social networks and expects in-depth information quickly – meaning those within higher education should take advantage of the visibility available online.
- In the Classroom. Social media can revolutionize learning and make it more efficient – as long as it isn’t abused. It offers a wealth of worldwide information that professors can use to complement lessons. An excellent example is shown in the case study: “Twitter in an Italian Class.” An Italian teacher at Montclair State University had her students tweet each other – only in Italian – in and out of the classroom, encouraging native speakers to join as well. 90% of the students reported a boost in confidence and motivation.
- General Outreach. One of the benefits of evolving social media is the ability to reach a vast amount of people. Educational institutions can reach not only potential students, but current students, alumni, industry peers and the general community. This allows for the publication of a more well-rounded school image: academics and awards as well as athletics and campus life. It’s also beneficial for updates and local news – there’s never been an easier way to share.
Social media will continue to rise in importance throughout the academic world. If correctly optimized, there are many benefits for those in higher education, including increased visibility and enrollment.